,A cursory exposure to the media post-Newtown might be alarming, even horrifying. Such non-inquisitive exposure could easily convince the unwary that an unprecedented number of kids are imminent school shooters. Thankfully, reading past sensational headlines, it’s easy to see that isn’t the issue. The question is yet another factor in the current gun-control debate: mental health. Specifically: have school authorities gone irredeemably mad?
As a teacher of high school English — and a firearms instructor — I have a dog in this fight. I often defend the public schools against unfair criticism, observing that most teachers are quiet professionals who do not indoctrinate their students with progressive propaganda. But what appears to be a nationwide epidemic of politically correct lunacy apparently sparked by the Newtown murders and egged on by President Obama’s anti-gun road show, and by his congressional fellow travelers, is running riot. These are just a few of the more recent incidents:
(1) Place: White Marsh Elementary School, Tabot County, Maryland
Tiny Terrorists: Two six-year-old boys (kindergartners)
Punishment: One-day suspension
Facts: The boys were pointing their fingers at each other during recess while playing “cops and robbers.”
(2) Place: Mount Carmel Area School District, Pennsylvania
Tiny Terrorist: A five year-old girl (kindergartener)
Punishment: 10-day suspension for making a “terroristic threat”
Facts: The girl told a classmate she wanted to “shoot” her and herself with a “Hello Kitty” bubble gun, a tiny, pink, cartoon ray-gun shaped bubble blower. She was searched, but left the “gun” at home. She was hectored in front of her class by the teacher and threatened with arrest.
(3) Place: D. Newlin Fell School, Philadelphia
Tiny Terrorist: A fifth-grade girl
Punishment: Searched and scolded in the presence of classmates, threatened with arrest.
Facts: The girl was given a paper gun by her grandfather the day before. She set it on her desktop prior to throwing it away. Her teacher seized it and yelled at her, and she was subsequently searched. To avoid harassment, the girl has been withdrawn from school and is being home schooled.
(4) Place: Sumter County School District, Sumter, South Carolina
Tiny Terrorist: Six-year-old girl
Punishment: Expelled from school for a semester
Facts: The girl brought a broken, transparent plastic toy airsoft gun, with the soft plastic pellets visible inside, for show and tell. The toy was seized, the police were called, and the girl was threatened with arrest if she set foot on school property, forcing her parents to park off school grounds when they picked up the girl’s siblings. After nearly a month, she was allowed to return to school after enormous pressure was applied via local media and the blogosphere.
(5) Place: Poston Butte High School, Tan Valley, Arizona
Tiny Terrorist: Freshman boy
Punishment: Three-day suspension
Facts: The boy, who plans a military career, posted a photograph of a gun as desktop wallpaper on his school-issued laptop computer.
(6) Place: Mary Blair Elementary School, Loveland, Colorado
Tiny Terrorist: Seven-year-old boy (2nd grader)
Punishment: School suspension pending
Facts: The boy was, by himself, playing “Rescue the World,” and threw an imaginary hand grenade into an imaginary box full of evil forces. He said “pshhh” to simulate the sound of the exploding imaginary grenade.
Madness? One might reasonably expect a bit of well-intentioned over-reaction to a traumatic event with which people can so easily identify. But supposedly reasonable, college-educated adults appear to be engaging in a modern witch hunt, with all the dumbfounding lack of logic and reason that implies.
Notice that in all but a single case, the objects that provoked such revulsion and foolishness in educated adults could not possibly be mistaken for actual weapons. In one case, the “weapon” was entirely imaginary, in others, the “weapons” were two-dimensional paper simulations. None of the “weapons” involved could possibly be mistaken for an actual weapon or threat. Consider, too, that in none of these cases did the tiny terrorists so much as threaten another, with the exception of the five year old who expressed the desire to “shoot” herself and another with Hello Kitty bubbles. There were no complaints, no actual weapons were brandished, no property was damaged, no one sustained so much as bruised feelings. There was no danger, indeed, no potential for danger. In every case, there was not the slightest evidence of evil intent.
It is tempting to believe this is evidence of an insidious progressive conspiracy. Indoctrinating the young and demonizing people, things, values, and ideas through repetition and shaming are an integral part of the literature and tactics of that movement. However, no conspiracy is necessary. While most American educators avoid political indoctrination in favor of professionally teaching their disciplines, there is no question that some do not and that in some schools, school districts, cities, even states, aggressive progressivism reigns with little or no opposition.
It’s not necessary to plot progressive indoctrination with other true believers; they already know what to think and what to do, and from whom to take their cues. At the moment, that would be Mr. Obama and other members of his administration on the permanent campaign trail. This time, they are specifically campaigning against the Second Amendment.
As powerful as political motivation might be, the faddish nature of education is equally compelling. For some time, “zero tolerance” policies of one kind or another have enjoyed substantial popularity.
The zero tolerance policy most familiar to the public is the “gun free” school zone, which for some produces feelings of safety. Unfortunately, like all zero tolerance polices, this is a complete failure, actually encouraging attacks rather than enhancing safety. Those who need to “feel safe” cannot admit this obvious reality lest their belief system come crashing down, so they redouble their efforts, striking out at even imaginary threats and guns.
Understanding this sort of thinking, it is easy to realize that such people think nothing of applying a zero tolerance policy prohibiting actual firearms to not only toys bearing a slight resemblance to firearms, but to depictions of firearms and even imaginary weapons. Thus have elementary-aged children been punished for pointing fingers at each other and fighting imaginary heroic battles for mankind. Thus is childhood warped and wrenched from children.
Some of these bizarre incidents are the direct result of human confusion or incompetence. School systems have multiple levels of management that theoretically can avoid abuses in student discipline. Take the case of the five year-old girl who dared think of blowing bubbles on her friend and herself. Even if her teacher could not tell the difference between a Hello Kitty bubble gun — a toy the girl left at home — and a real weapon, and even if she could not tell the difference between five year olds playing and a threat of serious bodily harm or death, what’s the principal’s excuse? What’s the excuse of the assistant superintendent and the superintendent and the members of the school board?
Fortunately, in most of these incidents, thunderous public scorn and the threats of attorneys were sufficient to undo suspensions and other punishments that should have never taken place. However, unless and until the voters of those — and every — school district take affirmative action to see that no student is punished for behaving like an entirely normal child, and that progressive indoctrination of our youngest and most impressionable children is brought to an abrupt and final halt, generations of Americans may grow up believing that so much as thinking about the “weapons” generations have harmlessly used in play since before the foundation of the republic is a crime against the state.
On the other hand, perhaps that’s exactly what the state wants.